Vienna Master of Arts in

Applied Human Rights

MA (Master of Arts)
120 ECTS
Dauer (Semester): 4 Semesters (2 years full time)
Unterrichtssprache: English
Start: 1. March 2021 (followed by October each year)
Direktor: Univ.-Prof. Manfred Nowak

© Life in Pixels, Fearless Girl on Wall Street in New York City by sculptor Kristen Visbal

We are still accepting applications for March 2021 

Tuition-fee waivers still available

The Vienna Master of Arts in Applied Human Rights is of the deep belief that a real growing, exploring and learning experience can only be achieved through the dynamic exchange of diverse academic, professional and personal experiences amongst staff, faculty and students.
Due to the unforeseeable international COVID situation, the travel regulations for international students as well as the teaching modalities within university facilities remain unclear. This heavily impacts the unique learning experience we offer to our students.
After thorough consideration, the Vienna Master has decided not to start the program in October 2020 via online-tools, even if we have learned a lot in terms of e-learning throughout these challenging times. However, in order to guarantee a high-quality learning experience, the Vienna Master will commence on 1 March 2021 in order to welcome all international students in Vienna and enable the inspiring, powerful and motivated group of students to form a strong, creative and fruitful bond in person at the University of Applied Arts.
We have re-opened our applications and offer new application deadlines - more details under Application.

The Vienna Master of Arts in Applied Human Rights was established in spring 2020 in reaction to present-day challenges generated by digitalization, globalization and neoliberalism. Global crises like the migration crisis, socio-economic inequalities, climate change or threats to data protection can only be exposed and confronted through an interdisciplinary human rights discourse and practice. Next to legal and diplomatic practices, the power of art and culture in promoting human rights values will be examined in this programme.

“The major crises of our times can only be resolved on the basis of human rights and through joining forces across borders, generations, genders, professions, cultures, political opinions, socio-economic backgrounds and scientific disciplines. In this endeavour arts and culture play a fundamental role in the dissemination and comprehension of human rights principles.”
Manfred Nowak

Manfred Nowak is a world-renowned professor of international law and human rights, who taught at many prestigious universities, such as the University of Vienna, Stanford University, Utrecht University, Lund University, Graduate Institute of Geneva, University of Auckland and Washington College of Law.

Manfred is Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights, which unites 100 universities across all world regions working on and teaching human rights. He is co-founder of one of the biggest human rights research institutes in Europe, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights.
Manfred was one of the judges of the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina between March 1996 and December 2003. From 2004 to 2010 Manfred was appointed to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, where he undertook 18 field missions around the world, including countries like China, Paraguay, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea amongst others. Recently, Manfred was selected by the United Nations as Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, which he presented in New York and Geneva in autumn 2019. Manfred is a holder of many prestigious human rights awards, such as Otto Hahn Peace Medal and the UNESCO Price for the Teaching of Human Rights.

On a personal note, Manfred is inspired by the interplay of human rights and arts a and has thus followed his passion and co-edited the book “Imagine Human Rights – Artists celebrate the Universal Declaration”, contrasting the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a multitude of international artworks.


The Vienna Master of Arts in Applied Human Rights offers students an in-depth interdisciplinary education in the history, philosophy, politics, as well as legal dimension of the international human rights standards and their protection mechanisms by international organizations, such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the African Union or the Organization of American States. In addition to the theoretical foundations, the Vienna Master teaches practical skills necessary for the work of a human rights practitioner, ranging from communication skills to project management.

The applied nature of contemporary art forms challenges existing inequalities and is part of the human rights culture. One aim of this Master programme is to explore this potential and practical applicability of artistic and cultural work in creating opportunities for promoting, protecting and implementing human rights.


Vienna is not only well known to be the city with the highest quality of life, but it is also situated in the heart of Europe and lies historically at the crossroads of different cultures. People from all over the world come to Vienna to enjoy its charm, sound of music, studying opportunities or progressive dance and theatre scene. It is also a place to convene in peace and human rights congresses like the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, which laid the ground for the current human rights architecture of the United Nations. The director of the Vienna Master, Manfred Nowak, played a key role in this milestone achievement.

Many international organizations and agencies, including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA), have chosen Vienna for their headquarters.

Not only does Vienna host many international organisations and agencies but is also home to world-renowned art institutions and cultural festivals.

Combining tradition and modernity, arts and science, work and leisure, Vienna provides the ideal international environment to spend two unforgettable years studying the art of human rights.

Comprehensive information about Vienna is available here.


An interdisciplinary contemporary teaching concept leads to comprehensive competencies in the practical application of human rights. The international student community of the Vienna Master of Applied Human Rights come from different academic backgrounds and diverse cultures enriching the learning and growing experience.

The students will be taught by renowned experts in the fields of human rights, arts and culture who will enable them to scientifically research questions relevant to human rights, recognize violations of human rights, and design as well as implement effective measures to achieve lasting human rights change and impact. In doing so, they will apply modern systemic change and communication strategies.

Students will benefit from the diplomatic and cultural infrastructure of Vienna and will be able to critically analyse global events and developments, navigate in different human rights systems, as well as to apply human rights in the diverse and constantly changing contexts.

Graduates will be qualified to work in the fields of international, regional and national human rights practice as well as apply their knowledge of human rights in the field of arts and culture.


The University of Applied Arts Vienna takes on the challenge of positively influencing art, research and society. It continuously shapes and directs the present toward the future. Teachers and researchers, students, alumni, employees and partners unite as a collective that takes a stand for an open society, applying artistic and scientific competences as the key to furthering that goal. The complex challenges ahead will require cooperative and multi-faceted approaches.

  • •    We invent new forms of work, education and art.
  • •    We create spaces for intellectual and creative endeavours, encouraging an open discourse that is both critical and empathic.
  • •    We research and evaluate the challenges facing society.
  • •    We explore radical solutions and develop new ideas to co-design and cope with transformations in technology, media and society.

We are not looking for simple answers, but for new questions and creative strategies arising within the context of our day-to-day activity.


1.    Introduction to Human Rights from an Interdisciplinary Perspective
2.    International Protection of Human Rights
3.    Introduction to Arts and Culture
4.    Scientific Competences
5.    Practical Human Rights Skills
6.    The Intersection of Human Rights and Arts
7.    Current Human Rights Challenges and Opportunities
8.    Thesis and Defence


Semester 1: Exploring the Colours of Human Rights

Just like the effects different colours have on people’s perceptions, different academic disciplines create different lenses on human rights research and analysis. In the first semester students explore:
human rights foundations and core concepts | international and national human rights protection mechanisms | interdisciplinarity | concepts and theories of arts and culture | scientific competences | human rights on the ground in a study trip to a post-conflict country | etc.

Semester 2: Mixing Colours & Creating Shapes and Shades

Just like mixing different colours with each other, intersecting human rights and the arts create new perspectives. In the second semester students reflect on and deepen acquired interdisciplinary foundations:

human rights criticism at the intersection of arts | culture and human rights | transcending concrete global challenges and human rights problem complexes through interdisciplinary approaches | practical human rights skills | excursions to international organisations and cultural events | etc.

Semester 3: Applying Colour Mixes on the Human Rights Canvas

Just like applying vivid colours on a canvas to create a piece of art, applying an interdisciplinary approach and practical skills to tackling global challenges will create new opportunities in promoting and protecting human rights. In the third semester students work independently, apply acquired knowledge, confront challenges and seek opportunities:
project management | fact-finding skills | establishing a research project | communication skills | forms of arts and culture as responses to human rights challenges | etc.

Semester 4: Finishing and Exhibiting your Big Human Rights Picture

Just like after the end of a creative process, students will defend their interdisciplinary thesis on a human rights related topic after writing it in the fourth semester:

research for thesis | thesis writing | thesis defence | etc.

The full curriculum can be downloaded under here.


Diplomatic and Cultural Infrastructure of Vienna

Students will encounter in Vienna:

  • •    The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
  • •    The Museum of Applied Arts (MAK)
  • •    The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
  • •    This Human World (Human Rights Film Festival)
  • •    United Nations Organisation for Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  • •    ImPulsTanz (Biggest International Dance Festival)
  • •    Etc.

Field Trip to a Post-Conflict Country

The field trip to a post-conflict area, such as Kosovo, offers students the opportunity to discuss human rights issues in post-conflict settings with international, national and local human rights institutions and civil society and gives them very practice-oriented insights into the daily human rights work and the challenges related to it.

Art & Culture Trip

The students of the Vienna Master will visit an international arts and culture festival or event experiencing the intersection of human rights and arts and the power this interplay emits.

The number of places in the programme is limited to 30 students.

Admission is based on availability, timely application (meeting the deadline), motivation and qualifications of the applicant and is also subject to the general admission requirements of the University of Applied Arts.

The application procedure entails two phases and will lead to admission by the selection committee, consisting of the Programme Director, Programme Manager and Academic Manager, only if the applicant has passed both phases positively:


(1)    Signed Application Form

(2)    Motivation Letter describing your individual motivation and professional development ideas as well as your expectations of the Vienna Master of Arts in Applied Human Rights (maximum 1 page)

(3)    CV providing a written overview of their your previously acquired qualifications, competencies and main areas of activity (including your contact information: postal address, telephone number and email address)

(4) Administrative Documents:

1.    Copy of valid passport
2.    Copy of University Diploma OR proof of relevant work experience (5 years)
3.    Academic transcripts including final grades
4.    Proof of English language proficiency, in case the applicant did not graduate from an academic programme taught solely in the English language: 6.5 on the IELTS scale or 100 points on the TOEFL scale
5.    Optional: Letter(s) of recommendation
6.    Optional: Document reflecting on why a scholarship from the Vienna Master programme would be essential
(please see the section “Tuition Fee” if you are eligible to apply for a scholarship from the programme).

All administrative documents must be either in German or English and if applicable fully legalised or validated by apostille. The type of legalisation depends on the country the documents were issued in. A list of the required legalisation types per country can be found here:

The application needs to be sent as one pdf document including all documents in the above listed order to:


The applicant will only be invited to the interview (possible also via Skype) when the application contains all necessary documents and the selection committee has shortlisted the candidate.

The applicants will then be interviewed about:
  • •their motivation to undertake the Vienna Master,
  • •how they wish to use this opportunity for their personal growth and
  • •where they envision themselves after graduating from the Master programme.


The Vienna Master receives a high volume of applications from all around the world and has therefore set up several application deadlines and interview rounds.

The programme highly suggests applying as early as possible since admissions will be sent out after each interview round, resulting in fewer study places available in each subsequent round.

  Submission Deadline
Round 4 15 July 2020
Round 5 15 August 2020
Round 6 15 September 2020

For applicants who need a Visa to live and study in Austria, we highly advice to apply as soon as possible.

The tuition for the Vienna Master of Arts in Applied Human Rights of € 22,500 applies to all students independent of their citizenship and covers 2 years (4 semesters) and is not subject to VAT.

The Vienna Master is a postgraduate programme, which differs from regular study schemes offering highly individualised educational services and guidance.

Besides the general educational services, such as the access to the library, the tuition fee covers:

  • the most important study books
  • access to special study facilities
  • full costs of the field trip to a post-conflict country
  • (including flights, accommodation, meal allowance and travel insurance)
  • individual interview and job coaching
  • printing, photocopying, scanning
  • access to an ever-growing library with selected human rights literature
  • accident and liability insurance
  • refreshments in class
  • etc.

Please note: The tuition fee does not cover costs for travel to and accommodation in Vienna, subsistence expenses, costs for the residence permit and health insurance.  


The Vienna Master of Arts in Applied Human Rights aims to support some students with financial aid to cover fully or partially the programme fee. The scholarship is a tuition fee waiver but does not cover accomodation or living costs. The number of scholarships and the amounts are subject to yearly contributions by external donors, who form the economic advisory board of our programme.

Only excellent candidates with outstanding academic or professional performances will be nominated for the selection by our economic advisory board, that ultimately appoints the scholarship holder(s).

Since funding from donors is limited and not guaranteed every year, candidates from the Global South are given preference. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please send us in addition to your complete application a letter stating why you would need the scholarship.

We recommend that you also apply at other relevant institutions or foundations for a scholarship to cover the tuition fee and/or living costs in Vienna.

Univ.-Prof. Manfred Nowak

Head of Office
Georges Younes, M.Sc